Another side of Tehran

We are all the same, really. It’s far too easy to read about Iran in the news and decide they are light years away from us. Friday’s event at Cornerhouse,  A Night In Tehran, was not only almost full, but it made the audience laugh helplessly most of the time. The Q & A session at the end of the three short films by young Iranian film makers, ended with the question ‘Did Abbas ever get his new motor bike?’. Goes to show how well we related to the people in these films. We wanted to know how life continued for them afterwards.

The first film, about a female taxi driver, was technically perhaps less well made, but it more than made up for it with its content. Nasrin, a young, divorced, single mother, drove taxis because she had to. But I think there must be a ‘taxi driver’ gene somewhere, because Nasrin would have fitted in anywhere in the world. She runs red lights, she complains about other motorists’ driving ability, she gesticulates with the best of them. Someone runs into her car and she lets them know what she thinks. She’s on the phone all the time. She goes to prayers, and is on her mobile while praying. And I only felt a little carsick at the end of our journey with Nasrin.

Abbas in the second film tries to find a job, while trying to make a living driving a motorbike. He, too, runs a kind of taxi service, taking passengers through the Tehran traffic jams on the back of his bike. (Propriety with female passengers is maintained by ladies keeping a bag in-between their bodies and holding on to the bike, rather than the driver…) It’s important to know how to avoid the police (U-turns are recommended), and it would be worth remembering to fill up with the necessary petrol before taking passengers. But you can always borrow some from a colleague. Abbas has left his family to come and work in Tehran, and sends money home. And then his motorcycle is stolen, almost from right under his nose. His biker friends say they will look after him and buy him a new bike, because it’s what you do.

Pizza is the new food fad in Tehran. Claims are that the young can’t even cook, because they will just ‘go out for a pizza’ instead. The die-hards claim (as everywhere in the world) that traditional food is best. Traditional for Iran seems to be sheep’s head and trotters. The audience squealed in horror at grinning sheep’s heads and ‘mashed’ brains, but the park guard in the film swore by it. He goes to the cemetery for fun, and has injections to prevent ‘urges’, too…  Some of the old men, who claim to favour traditional, would probably still sneak off and have a pizza, but there’s no need to tell the wife.

The details differ, but we really are all the same.


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